PATERSON, NJ- For too long the basketball courts on 12th Avenue have suffered from neglect, finding their spot among the all to common list of places within the city’s neighborhoods that have become havens for drug use and other activities.

Thanks to the creativity, hard work, and most importantly, desire to do “something fantastic” by local artist and teacher Chris Fabor Muhammad, that’s changing.

Under a blazing sun on Saturday Muhammad proudly showed off the improvements, and shared his strong belief that the work done over the past few weekends with the help of an army of local volunteers was “just a beginning.” The once drab backboards have been transformed into colorful murals, and, as a half dozen young men and boys play across two of the courts, two residents, armed with a broom and a shovel, were doing their part to keep it clean.

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The art, Mohammad believes, will have “transformative power.”

“When things look beautiful people want to come out,” he said. The volunteers he recruited from the community, just like on other projects he’s led across the city through Arts Reforming Community (ARC), are given the “power to create,” and that, he said, brings “change.”

Interrupting their play long enough to speak to TAPinto Paterson, two 14-year old boys who didn’t want to share their names, both offered evidence that Mohammad’s plan is already working.

Asked what comes to mind when they think of their hometown one said “The bad thinks going on,” while the second responded simply “garbage.” After taking a minute to look around the newly refurbished courts the first offered that it showed that “somebody cares about our neighborhood,” while his friend, after thinking about it said, “It’s nice...makes someone more comfortable to come here.”

Told of TAPinto Paterson’s visit to the court earlier in the day 4th Ward Councilwoman Ruby Cotton shared her appreciation for ARC’s contributions saying “the area needed to be uplifted,” and for that to happen “partnership is what we needed.” 

Suggesting that with a variety of projects in the pipeline, including a multi family development under construction on the same, the future is bright for the 4th Ward, Cotton added her trademark line “It’s not I it’s we,” when it comes to bringing the change so many are yearning for.